If there was one thing Republicans cared about six years ago, it was how high-ranking officials dealt with classified materials. In fact, as recently as 2016, the GOP was certain — that is, the party at least pretended to be certain — that politicians disqualify themselves from positions of authority when they put documents at risk.
And so, now that Republicans have learned that Donald Trump allegedly took highly sensitive classified materials to his golf resort, one could imagine the party expressing outrage with the former president. After all, given the GOP’s recent history of passionate feelings on the subject, it stands to reason that Trump may have crossed an intolerable line.
But that would assume that the Republican Party’s principles and standards are consistent. They are not. On the contrary, GOP officials aren’t outraged with Trump, they’re outraged with federal law enforcement for even considering the possibility of holding Trump accountable for his alleged actions.
There’s regular ol’ hypocrisy and then there’s nuclear-grade hypocrisy. I’m reminded of this New York Times report from February, shining a light on Republicans who were “once so forceful about the issue of mishandling documents.
Several Republicans who once railed against Mrs. Clinton’s document retention practices did not respond Thursday to questions about Mr. Trump’s actions. Others who had been directly involved with investigating Mrs. Clinton declined to discuss the specifics except to suggest, without evidence, that the National Archives and Records Administration was treating Mr. Trump more harshly.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, Republicans, with varying degrees of hysterics, made Hillary Clinton out to be a literal criminal who put the United States at risk. During the presidential campaign, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan went so far as to formally request that the Democrat be denied intelligence briefings — insisting that her email practices, which were the subject of an FBI investigation, were proof that she mishandled classified information and therefore couldn’t be trusted.
To this day, rabid Republican activists will reflexively chant, “Lock her up!” at the mere mention of Clinton’s name because she allegedly failed to properly deal with classified materials.
And now many of those same Republicans say they don’t much care. Indeed, the only thing many in the GOP appear to care about this morning is condemning federal law enforcement for taking the issue seriously.
Some might suggest that GOP voices have flip-flopped, conveniently changing their minds. But that gives the Republicans playing this game far too much credit: The problem is not that the GOP took the issue of document retention seriously before, only to later shift their position; the problem is that the party only pretended to care about the issue in the first place.